Senior Shares Snake Research at International Research Conference

CONWAY, Ark. (August 29, 2012) - Suffice it to say, Hendrix senior Chris Akcali isn't afraid of snakes.

Akcali, a biology major from Irving, Texas, recently returned from the World Congress of Herpetology (WCH) in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he presented the results of his research.

WCH is an international event to promote international interest, collaboration and co-operation in herpetology, Akcali said.

More than 1,700 scientists and students attended this year's conference.

"The WCH is the biggest and most important meeting for herpetological research in the world, and it only happens once every four years," said Hendrix biology professor Dr. George Harper, who is Akcali's advisor. Akcali started the project with Harper in May 2011. 

"I've always had an interest in evolutionary biology and zoology," Akcali said. "Dr. Harper's research combines those and that really attracted me to his lab." 

Akcali's proposal was accepted by the WCH, and he received travel funding through Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning to attend and present his research.

For the project, Akcali photographed more than 1,500 snakes to study the geographic variation in the color pattern of two venomous coral snake species (Micrurus fulvius and Micrurus tener) and a putative mimic of these two species, the non-venomous scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea). He used only preserved specimens for his research, but the next phase - to be completed by future students in Dr. Harper's lab - will likely involve living snakes, he said.

In addition to his research, Akcali is a math and zoology tutor and has been a teaching assistant in a number of biology classes.

This year, Akcali is preparing a manuscript of his research results for publication. After graduation, Akcali hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology.

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. Hendrix was named the country's #1 "Up and Coming" liberal arts college for the third consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country's best 376 colleges and is listed in the 2012 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of 25 "Best Buy" private colleges included. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.